2:00PM Water Cooler 9/14/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“President Donald Trump signed legislation on Thursday that would reduce tariffs on nearly 1,700 imported products used by U.S. manufacturers — an uncharacteristic move for the leader who has shown an affinity for imposing tariffs on foreign goods” [Politico]. “The bill, which House lawmakers passed last week, temporarily reduces or suspends tariffs on various imported raw materials and intermediate goods that are not produced in the U.S. The Miscellaneous Tariff Bill has long received strong support from congressional trade leaders and major business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but it expired in 2012 after it became entangled in the House Republican ban on earmarks.”

“Why China could withstand the trade war far longer than Trump thinks” [WaPo]. “‘They are under pressure to make a deal with us,’ Trump tweeted in reference to China. ‘Our markets are surging, theirs are collapsing.’… But unlike in the United States, the ups and downs of the Chinese stock market affect relatively few people, meaning sell-offs are unlikely to translate into pressure on Chinese leaders. Less than 10 percent of China’s adult population owns shares…” • Hmm. Not to defend Trump, but it seems reasonable to apply pressure to elites (this Chinese 10%) to induce policy change. That said, my question — like everybody else, I don’t know anything — is what happens to the working class in the hinterlands when goods start piling up on the docks? I see how One Belt One Road solves that problem in the long run, by building new markets in the ‘Stans and Mackinders “Heartland,” but as Sun Tzu remarked: In the long run, we’re all dead.

“China’s auto sector is shrugging off the trade war” [Business Insider]. “Looking ahead, prices of automobiles imported into China from the US will become even higher compared to other import origins. US car imports will attract an additional 25% of tariffs under the $16 billion goods tariff list effective on 23rd August, which delivers a total tariffs rate on imported American cars to 40%.What’s worse for US imports, is that China has lowered tariffs for automobiles which aren’t American to 15% from 25%. The net effect will be a price cut for cars imported to China except, for the cars imported from the US. Unsurprisingly, we expect Chinese consumers to favour purchases of European cars.” • I read this twice, and couldn’t find a reference to China increasing domestic production, especially with electric vehicles. Sure, screwing the US over in favor of Europe is good clean fun, but wouldn’t boosting Chinese production (hence demand) be wiser? Especially in the hinterlands?

“Trump’s trade war is a circular firing squad” [Asia Times]. “Pundits are engaged in an irresistible debate: who miscalculated more on trade – Donald Trump or Xi Jinping? A good argument can be made either way. The US president erred significantly when he argued: ‘Trade wars are good, and easy to win.’ Not when your foe is the leader of a proud government whose legitimacy relies on looking strong and resolute. Xi’s miscalculation in Beijing was thinking the ‘America First’ leader was bluffing. Clearly, Trump wasn’t. But the next misstep is all Trump’s as he turns on multinational companies that long made America’s economy great.” • Um.



“Sanders allies expect him to make second White House bid” [The Hill]. “‘I expect him to run,’ said Larry Cohen, the chairman of Our Revolution, an organization formed by Sanders operatives after their candidate lost the Democratic presidential primary to Hillary Clinton in 2016. ‘He’s probably the most popular elected official,’ Cohen added. Sanders allies increasingly talk more confidently about the likelihood of a second presidential bid. Just a few months ago, the allies were more careful about his potential candidacy. Jeff Weaver, who served as Sanders’s campaign manager in 2016, said Sanders ‘is being very thoughtful about’ whether he enters the race. ‘He’s very focused on the question of beating Trump and putting a Democrat in the White House,’ Weaver said. ‘And if he runs it’s because he thinks he’s the one to do it.'”


52 days until Election Day. 52 days is a long time in politics. The cliché is: “A week is a long time in politics,” attributed to former UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

“The Daily 202: New York primary results challenge the crystallizing 2018 narrative” [James Hohmann, WaPo]. “This week’s final batch of 2018 primaries [Raimondo, Cuomo, Hochul, Carper, among others] ought to temper, at least somewhat, the over-torqued conventional wisdom that a liberal insurgency is taking over the Democratic Party…. By wading aggressively into some primaries, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee incensed the professional left. Loud complaints from activists generated untold stories about internecine warfare. But the DCCC finished the primary season 39 for 41 in the primaries where it took sides, a win rate of 95 percent. In fact, more House Republican incumbents have lost primaries this cycle than Democrats. Not a single sitting Democratic senator or governor lost a primary this year.” • As readers know, I never bought into this narrative for a single second, because [lambert preens] I took the trouble to do the quantitative work with the districts with my Worksheets. Second, and as usual, Hohmann conflates liberals and the left. Third, to my mind, the most interesting candidates are AOC and Salazar (and I may be being New York-centric here, so readers please correct me). Both — very much unlike Nixon and Teachout, for all their virtues — are explicitly socialist, both overcame well-entrenched liberal Democrats with stellar organizing, both have “complex biographies.” (Salazar faced a brutal smear campaign.) If the left is lucky and smart, these state-level races will be the left historic rhyming of the conservative takeover of local school boards that, well, took Kansas over the edge into Koch-inspired and -funded madness. So I care a lot more about the state level than the “flagship” candidates.

“With Primary Season Over, Democrats Poised to Gain 3 to 7 Governors’ Seats” [Governing]. “In our latest handicapping of the nation’s 36 races for governor, we’re shifting the ratings for 10 of them: six in the Democrats’ direction and four in the Republicans’. The six seats moving in Democrats’ favor are in Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin. And the four seats shift toward the GOP are in Alaska, Maine, Oregon and Rhode Island.” • Nice work with Raimondo in RI, Dems.

NY: “New York Is One Of The Bluest States In The Country. Its Voting Laws Are Horrendous.” [HuffPo]. “‘If progressives are not already alarmed at how bad our voting laws are in New York, they should be,’ said state Sen. Michael Gianaris, a Democrat who has introduced voting reforms legislation. He added that New York’s voting laws were on par with those in southern states, which have a history of severe voting restrictions, and that passing voting reforms would be a top priority if Democrats take back control of the state Senate in November.” • Let me know how that works out.

NY: The ballot:

Whoops. On the bright side, AOC retweeting Kelton is pretty neat.

NY Governor: “Cuomo no-shows Manhattan victory party, stays in Albany instead” [Albany Times-Union]. “It’s a highly unusual move for a winning candidate, though Cuomo has kept up a busy schedule in the final days of the campaign with rallies across the state.”

NY Senate: “Six of eight ex-IDC senators lose primary bids” [Times-Union]. “Progressive activists successfully wrested the Democratic nominations away from six former members of the Senate Independent Democratic Conference in primaries on Thursday, including the conference’s former leader, Jeff Klein…. The outcome marked a stunning epilogue to the rogue group formed by Klein in 2011, after Democrats lost the chamber, and the initial four members worked, with the tepid support of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, in conjunction with the Senate Republicans. In 2013, when Democrats made up a numerical majority, the renegade Democrats enabled Republicans to maintain control of the Senate.” • Let’s not forget that the IDC always had Ratface Andy’s “implicit blessing“; the IDC was a bulwark against the left, with its pesky desire for programs like single payer, enabling Cuomo to burnish his image as a Clinton-style liberal. New Yorkers please comment…


NY Attorney General: “New York Elects Its Next Anti-Trump Warrior” [HuffPo]. “[Tish] James, who currently serves as the public advocate of New York City, trounced three rivals to capture the Democratic nomination. The race saw strong challenges from her left flank by Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University law professor known for her anti-corruption work, and Sean Patrick Mahoney, a sitting congressman [and Cuomo straw?]…. New York’s singular status gives James even more opportunities to make a national impact. The state is home to the bulk of America’s financial infrastructure, thereby giving its attorney general a unique set of responsibilities…. James will be expected to carry on the office’s modern role as a financial watchdog and an anti-corruption enforcer, though she disclaimed the “sheriff of Wall Street” moniker on the campaign trail. But the job’s most pressing responsibility today is keeping an eye on an even bigger fish. By sheer happenstance, President Donald Trump and his business empire fall under the jurisdiction of the New York attorney general’s office. This wouldn’t matter much under normal circumstances, but Trump is not a normal president.” • What on earth is wrong with being the “sheriff of Wall Street”?

UPDATE NY Attorney General: Handy map:

VA-09: “Can an Organic Farmer Win in Appalachian Virginia?” [The New Republic]. “The Fighting 9th, as it’s called, is large. At more than 9,100 square miles, it’s larger than the state of New Jersey, but just 700,000 people live within its borders. It takes up the state’s entire Appalachian west, beginning just west of Roanoke and touching the borders of West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Kentucky. The southern region of the district is historically agricultural; coal lies to the north. A successful insurgent will have to cover that distance, closing gaps both physical and political. To that end, Flaccavento has pledged to hold 100 town halls before polls open in November; his campaign says that as of today, he’s completed 80.” • A salutary reminder of how enormous the country is. VA-09 is not NY-12 (except in terms of the appeal of universal concrete material benefits, of course.

WI-01: “We polled voters in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District.” [New York Times]. • Very interesting on polling methods. Bottom line is that Bryce is down 5% with a 9% margin of error (!).

* * *

“Women candidates set nationwide records” [The Hill] • Identity politics is and has been the “crystallizing narrative,” as Hohmann very well knows. Don’t get me wrong: I think female spies and spy-humpers should have the same right to run for office as any other imperial lackey or torture enabler. After all, the intelligence community needs people in office who look like themselves!

“POLITICO Playbook PM: When a Democratic lawmaker raises money for a Republican incumbent …” [Politico]. “IT’S INCREDIBLY RARE for any lawmaker to help raise money for someone of the other party. BUT CUELLAR RAISING MONEY FOR CARTER is even more shocking considering the Texas Republican is in a surprisingly tight race against Democratic standout candidate MJ HEGAR. ADDING TO THE DRAMA: Hegar has been endorsed by the Blue Dog Coalition, of which Cuellar is a co-chair! One Democratic source familiar with the race also noted that Cuellar and Carter held the fundraiser on Sept. 11, and Hegar is a veteran. HEGAR is one of the Democratic challengers leaders hope will surprise in November. She raised $1.1 million last quarter, and has had a couple of viral ads that put her on the map. THE DCCC was first informed of the Cuellar fundraiser by Playbook.” • It’s Democrats like this that really inspire the youth.

“US Iron Miner Helps Launch Ad Campaign to Sing Tariff Praises” [Industry Week]. “Some U.S. companies have reacted to the divisive issue of metal tariffs by saying as little as possible. Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., on the other hand, has not only publicly backed the levies, now it’s putting up money to sing their praises. The U.S. iron-ore producer says it’s deploying a promotional campaign with other companies that touts the benefits of President Donald Trump’s steel tariffs. Targeting voters in iron- or steel-producing states including Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio, the ads will begin to run this month and through October….”

New Cold War

“READ: Mueller files superseding criminal information against Manafort” (document) [The Hill]. “Criminal information typically precedes a guilty plea.”

“Manafort will cooperate with Mueller as part of guilty plea, prosecutor says” [WaPo]. “Both cases brought against Manafort by the special counsel stem from his work in Ukraine. The jury in Virginia found that Manafort hid millions of dollars he made in Ukraine to avoid paying taxes and then lied to get loans when the political party that was paying him was ousted from power and the funding dried up.” • Note, hilariously, that “the political party that was paying him” was trying to move Ukraine toward NATO, away from Russia. Do a favor, lose a friend.

“Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors” [Salon] “It remains unclear whether Manafort has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors and provide any information to the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election or is simply conceding to a guilty plea.”

“The FBI Is in Crisis. It’s Worse Than You Think” [Time (!)]. One of many horrid stories: “Last May, McCabe, then the FBI’s deputy director, sat down at the table in his seventh-floor office for a meeting with two agents from the inspections division. The agents had some questions about the Clinton Foundation leak just before the election. It was a quick meeting. McCabe, an FBI veteran who rose through the ranks over a 21-year career, told them he had “no idea” where the leak came from. The agents left after just five minutes or so, according to the Inspector General’s April 13 report. McCabe had offered that same basic assurance months earlier to his boss, then director Comey, investigators said, and had angrily lit into FBI officials under him, suggesting the Clinton leak had come from their offices and telling one senior agent in Washington to ‘get his house in order.’ But as it turned out, McCabe knew exactly where the leak had come from. He personally authorized it, Horowitz’s investigators found, to counter charges that he favored Clinton. (His wife received $467,500 from the PAC of a Clinton ally, then Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, in a failed 2015 bid for state office.) • It’s been so long I don’t remember the details on McCabe’s Clinton Foundation leak (or whether the leak was correct). That said, you know what’s coming: “The FBI cost Clinton the election!” I think the real moral of the story is “Don’t take the Clinton’s money.” Hard to imagine details like that didn’t circulate in the office, eh?

Obama Legacy

“Barack Obama’s return just reminds us how he fueled the distrust that led to Donald Trump” [USA Today]. “How can Obama blame Americans for being cynical after repeating dozens of times his false promise that ‘If you like your doctor, you’ll be able to keep your doctor,’ despite the dozens of mandates in Obamacare? How can he blame Americans for being cynical after his 2015 assertion that ‘it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book’? How can he castigate cynics after he campaigned in 2008 on a peace platform and then proceeded to bomb seven nations? How can he complain about distrust after he flip-flopped on illegal surveillance and unleashed the National Security Administration to target anyone ‘searching the web for suspicious stuff‘?” • Not to mention issuing the banksters a free pass….

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Federal Judge May Force Georgia to Switch to Paper Ballots” [Courthouse News]. “U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg called an emergency hearing Wednesday to determine whether an ongoing lawsuit alleging that Georgia’s electronic voting machines are susceptible to “malicious manipulation” will end with Georgians casting their votes using paper ballots instead of touchscreen voting machines. The Coalition for Good Governance claims in their lawsuit that Georgia’s 27,000 direct-recording electronic voting machines are vulnerable to hacking and are prohibitively difficult to secure since they lack a physical paper trail backup.”

UPDATE “LILAC’s response to the Steering Committee of Philly DSA” [Medium]. “In the 8 months since its creation, LILAC has grown to become the Local’s largest committee. About 90 unique DSA members — or 10% of our entire membership — have attended a LILAC meeting. Retention for the committee is high, with 20–30 repeat members at monthly meetings and 10+ new members each meeting…. [W]e find multiple instances in which the Steering Committee acted unilaterally to obstruct the work being done by Philly DSA organizers. There can be no doubt that the Steering Committee’s actions are the result of ideological differences with LILAC. Whereas LILAC members generally believe that building a mass socialist movement will require bottom-up organizing and the consistent application of a socialist analysis to intersecting issues, members of the steering committee appear to believe that we can only build solidarity if we focus on a single, supposedly ‘class-based’ demand, Medicare for All.” • The local/national conflict is as old as time…. That said, I never understood a DSA focus on Medicare for All. They aren’t strong enough to lead the effort, and they won’t get credit for passage of the bill. Canvassing is good, because when you knock on doors people see you don’t have fangs, but why that issue? Curious. (Then agai, that “intersecting issues” is phraseology I don’t like; issues don’t intersect. Ditto “supposedly ‘class-based’ demand.” There’s nothing “supposedly” but universal concrete material benefits like #MedicareForAll!

UPDATE I know how he feels:

I’m baffled by the continuing Clintonite hysteria about Susan Sarondon. It means nothing good. Remember when liberals were “the reality-based community”? Good times.

Stats Watch

Industrial Production, August 2018: “Strength in mining and utilities offsets softness in manufacturing to lift industrial production” [Econoday]. “The subdued performance of manufacturing echoes the Fed’s Beige Book earlier in the week which described the sector as no better than moderate. This is quite a surprise given extraordinarily strong readings in many of the small sample reports especially the ISM. Yet mining is definitely strong and together with even moderate acceleration for manufacturing point to a solid year-end contribution from the industrial economy.” • The discrepancy between data and surveys is a continuing, open scandal, never addressed. And: “Although overall manufacturing output missed economists’ estimates, levels are still elevated. The factory data also show resilience in the face of supply constraints, wage pressures, higher prices and supply-chain disruptions amid global trade uncertainty. At the same time, this year’s corporate tax cuts bode well for companies while a strong job market is encouraging household spending” [Industry Week]. “Manufacturing, which makes up 75% of total industrial production, accounts for about 12% of the U.S. economy.” And but: “Capacity utilization at 78.1% is 1.7% below the average from 1972 to 2017 and below the pre-recession level of 80.8% in December 2007” [Calculated Risk]. • Best economy ever!

Business Inventories, July 2018: “Business inventories start the third-quarter very strong” [Econoday]. “The need to build inventories looks to be a major positive for GDP and a major positive for production and employment.”

Retail Sales, August 2018: “An upward revision to a very strong July offsets an unexpectedly flat August to make for a solid pace so far” [Econoday]. “Weakness in August is tied to motor vehicles where sales fell… Positives include another strong gain for nonstore retailers… as e-commerce continues to muscle out gains.” And but: “The increase in August was well below expectations, however sales in June and July were revised up” [Calculated Risk].

Import and Export Prices, August 2018: “The dollar has been strong which does help explain at least some of the surprising weakness for import prices which fell” [Econoday]. “But the weakness is more than just the dollar and imports, it’s also on the export side…. Price pressures on the global level are very subdued and further gains for the dollar would point to increasingly subdued levels for imported inflation. But for the Federal Reserve the risk right now is tied, not to global prices or consumer prices, but to lack of capacity in the labor market and the prospect of wage inflation.”

Consumer Sentiment, September 2018 (Preliminary): “Consumer sentiment is moving higher so far this month…, the strongest showing since March this year and after that the strongest since 2004” [Econoday]. “All major socio-economic subgroups are showing strength this month though concerns about tariffs are on the rise, mentioned by 1/3 of all respondents vs 1/5 in prior months. And especially important readings for the Federal Reserve are inflation expectations which are on the downturn….”

Shipping: “How Organizations Recruit Drivers (Top 10)” [Freight Waves]. • Referrals, 60%. Training, 9%.

Meta: “We’re Measuring the Economy All Wrong” [David Leonhardt, New York Times]. “A team of academic economists — Gabriel Zucman, Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty (the best-selling author on inequality) — has begun publishing a version of G.D.P. that separates out the share of national income flowing to rich, middle class and poor. For now, its data is published with a lag; the most recent available year is 2014. But the work is starting to receive attention from other academics and policy experts [including Senators Chuck Schumer and Martin Heinrich]…. ‘As someone who advises policymakers, I can tell you there is often this shock: ‘The economy is growing. Why aren’t people feeling it,” [Heather Boushey, who runs the Washington Center for Equitable Growth] says. ‘The answer is: Because they literally aren’t feeling it.’ ….. It’s worth remembering that the current indicators are not a naturally occurring phenomenon. They are political creations, with the flaws, limitations and choices that politics usually involves.” • Well worth a read.

Imperial Collapse Watch

“What’s to Blame for Boston-Area Natural Gas Explosions?” [MarketWatch]. “At a press conference on Thursday, fire investigators suggested that over-pressurization in a gas-delivery main may have caused the blasts. The natural gas supplier for the affected area is Columbia Gas, a subsidiary of NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI). Columbia serves more than 50,000 customers in the Merrimack Valley including the cities of Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence where the explosions and fires occurred. Ironically, perhaps, earlier in the day Columbia Gas issued an announcement that it would begin upgrading its distribution lines in the region…. The carnage in Massachusetts was localized to individual homes, leading investigators to suspect that small-diameter distribution lines were over-pressurized. Natural gas lines into a house would normally maintain a pressure of around 0.25 lb per square inch, just barely higher than normal air pressure. But gas travels at significantly higher pressures before it reaches the meter and the regulator attached to a house that reduces the pressure to safe levels for consumers. The house fills with gas and the slightest spark can ignite it. Why the lines became over-pressurized (if indeed they did) will be determined over the course of the next several days.” • Filing this story here because it’s Third World stuff. Gas line installers — I’m sure we have some in the readership! — feel free to weigh in!

Class Warfare

“Set Theory of the Left” [Haydar Khan, Counterpunch]. “The essential flaw lies in conflating the intersection of sets with the union of sets. Take a minute to think about the difference. The way “intersectionality” is used today reminds me of Inigo Montoya, the character in the movie The Princess Bride. “You keep using that word,” he says. “I do not think it means what you think it means.” Inigo is talking about a completely different word, of course. (His word is “inconceivable”) But his point applies here. Intersectionality, far from having an inclusionary effect, actually excludes many, many people due to characteristics in them judged unwelcome. Intersectionality as a political strategy thus thwarts the objective of forming a large enough coalition capable of winning and effectively wielding political power.” • This is an important post that you should take the time to read, especially if you are a Gregory Bateson fan. In fairness, by “important” I mean “confirms my priors”; see this post from NC on intersectionality from 2016, where I wrote:

Penn’s intersectionality is vulgar because it’s either/or. Crenshaw’s intersectionality is both/and. (One cannot but wonder whether the tendency of Democratic apparatchiks to vulgar intersectionality is a result of their institutional structure [cf. Conway’s Law]: There is one desk that speaks “for women,” another desk “for blacks,” another desk “for youth,” but no desk for “black young women”.)

Let alone a desk for “black young working class women.” Subject to correction by actual math people: My “Either/or” v. “both/and” is Kahn’s “intersection” v. “union” using less fancy words. (I think the right way to think about ugly collection of communication/organizing issues is with AOC’s trope of “lenses“. My lenses are progressive tri-focals….)

News of The Wired

These little town blues:

“THE PLATONIST FILE: What makes 17 a prime?” [Daily Howler]. • I keep meaning to introduce readers to The Howler, who I would categorize as an old-school blogger, except that — IIRC, it was a long time ago — he was doing the media critique before there was blogging. In any case, just so I don’t forget, here he is on academic philosophy, so fans of that discipline, please weigh in. Today, Gödel. Tomorrow, Wittgenstein!

“Burning Man’s Mathematical Underbelly” [Scientific American]. “While all of the art on the Playa is eye-catching, a lot of it is extremely technical as well: lasers that continuously outline your shadow, sensors that sync the Man’s heartbeat with your own, huge kinetic sculptures, interactive digital art (which is either highly random or unobviously complex), and on and on. A moment’s thought would have revealed that there must be an army of scientists and engineers behind the scenes. ”

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (divad ymal):

divad ymal writes: “The front garden of my upstate NY estate is hanging in. I have a secluded spot to sit in there.”

Readers, I’m running a bit short on plants. Probably a little soon for fall foliage, or wrapping up the garden, but I’m sure you can find something! How about a project you completed over the summer?

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. jsn

    “circular firing squad”
    I don’t know anything about Chinese politics, but from what Michael Pettis writes Trump may prove to be a gift to Xi: China needs to re-balance to domestic consumption but cannot because the elite got that way by exporting. Trump shutting the export sluice gives Xi an external “threat” to hang reform on. Will he accept the opportunity?

    “…ought to temper, at least somewhat, the over-torqued conventional wisdom that a liberal insurgency…”
    No it won’t. That narrative serves the following two purposes:
    1. Dems win big in November: t’was our (non-existent) march left what brought us high! (keep doin’ just like we’re doin’!)
    2. Dems loose big, or just barely in November: t’was that stupid march left what brought us low! (clamber frantically to the right!)
    Missing in this, as you note, is any actual “left”.

    “New York Is One Of The Bluest States In The Country. Its Voting Laws Are Horrendous.”
    With what I saw at my Brooklyn polling place yesterday OAC has a serious “voter fraud” exposure from the Democrat Party.

    “Six of eight ex-IDC senators lose primary bids”
    This is truly hopeful!

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      “Trump may prove to be a gift to Xi”

      Of course not. “Complicated explanations are suspect. The world is simple, and there must be a simple explanation for everything.” /snerk

      There are three obvious world powers now. Two of them very clearly understand that one of them does not understand that at all.

      If I were playing this game, I’d try to not push Russia into getting used to working with China.

    2. John k

      Shifting income to chinese consumers helps balance trade, trump, and, pf course, Chinese consumers. It also reduces chinese inequality.
      Less globalism reduces us inequality.
      Dems know they can’t fight this out loud, it’s too popular. But donors are steaming.
      What’s not to like?

  2. Another Scott

    RE: Gas Explosion
    I don’t work in the gas utility industry, but know number of people who do. The company, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts used to be known as Bay State Gas and was acquired by NiSource around 2000. Bay State Gas was the merger of smaller gas utilities in Massachusetts in the 1970s. The relevant one here is the Lawrence Gas Company, which was formed in 1849.

    This means that, like many gas companies, the Columbia Gas has some very old underground pipes. Reports indicated that almost 14% are iron or unprotected steel. I’m not aware of leakage in its service territory, but in National Grid’s (the largest in the state), 4.5% is lost in the distribution system, compared to 0.2% in other parts of the country. A friend who used to work for the company told me that some of National Grid’s lines were still made from wood and that the wood had actually rotted away, meaning gas was literally being delivered to homes via holes in the soil.

    All of the news has focused on the explosions and fires in houses, but many of the pipes likely had trouble with the (according to reports) higher pressure gas. This likely exacerbated the problems and may have created additional leaks and further weakened the structural integrity of the pipe. Hopefully, these problems will be fixed before the gas is turned back on.

  3. Wukchumni

    “Burning Man’s Mathematical Underbelly” [Scientific American].
    A nice story regarding Burning Man, without the usual SV/Hollywood types that always dominate the conversation.

    I haven’t been in a decade, but always enjoyed the art, which is impressive in itself, as you’d never see any of it anywhere else more than likely, and it’s all about on the down low experts that might spend a year with a team of a dozen others making something really special.

    I was always amazed how precise fire cannons on art cars were, that carefully shot flames dozens of feet in the air, but rather safely.

    This was one of my favorite pieces of art, powered by stationary bicycles


      1. fresno dan

        Lambert Strether
        September 14, 2018 at 2:57 pm

        I laughed so hard beer squirted out almost all my orifices….

      2. Angie Neer

        Not being one of the Cool Kids myself, I sorta knew that was a joke, but I couldn’t remember who said it.

    1. a different chris

      Exactly. And since they are BMWs, I expect Bavarian Motor Werkes can just ship them “into” Europe onto a parking lot next to one of their plants, apply a final coat of wax or something, and avoid the whole tariff.

      In any case, the like two dozen* cars a year we ship to well-heeled Chinese just aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things.

      *I can’t even tell from Teh Google what the real number is, although I admit I gave up easily. The most prominent hit said that Ford sold 900,000+ cars in China over a 9 month (I don’t know why its so hard to do a full year), but only 2% were actually imported. But that doesn’t even say where that 2% (18780 btw) came from.

      1. Wukchumni

        Chinese made cars are for sale in New Zealand, at MSRP way below other competitors. Now as far as the quality goes, couldn’t tellya.

        This ute, which is available in double-cab 4WD 2.8-litre turbo-diesel form, with six-speed manual and automatic transmissions, and with Elite and Luxury levels of specification, is being offered with retail prices ranging from $33,350 for an Elite manual through to $40,250 for a Luxury auto.

        These are extremely favourable prices when compared to the big-selling Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger utes which carry RRPs from $43,990 through to close to $70,000 for the double-cab 4WD wellside models.


        Why aren’t new Chinese cars sold in the USA?

        1. JBird

          Forget quality. How about safety?

          Mexican automakers’ cars made and sold in Mexico are cheaper than foreign automakers, but if they can afford it, Mexicans buy don’t buy cars made just for the Mexican market. Those cars lack all the nifty safety requirements that even American cars from decades ago have.

    2. ChiGal in Carolina

      Don’t know where in SC you are and evidently you have connectivity, but just hoping you and yours stay safe this weekend.

      In the Triangle we aren’t getting hit as hard as anticipated so hopefully no power outages!

      I feel kinda silly for putting all my porch furniture upside down and my plants on the concrete, and for the ginormous bottle of water I don’t even think I can lift, but better safe than sorry.

      1. JerryDenim

        Better safe than sorry. I remember watching WRAL’s Greg Fischel on the 11’oclock news tell Raleigh viewers that they may have a “pine cone or two down in their yard in the morning, but not much else” as hurricane Fran was about to make landfall in 1996. The power went not even an hour later and in the morning there were 200-year-old oaks down everywhere, massive flooding and the National Guard was patrolling the streets. Looks like you guys dodged a bullet. Keep your guard up for the next hurricane, the bad ones seem to have a way of surprising people.

        Hopefully you don’t get too much more rain and that thing continues to fall apart while skedaddling north quickly.

      2. Carolinian

        Thanks. I think the eye of the storm is going to pass a little to north of us this weekend. It should be much diminished by then.

  4. Kurt Sperry

    One detail that struck me from the superseding criminal information against Manafort published recently: Manafort spent $849,215 at a NYC men’s clothing store, Alan Couture, between Nov. 7, 2008 and Sep. 11, 2014. How is that even possible to do?

    1. RUKidding

      You aroused my curiosity. Apparently Alan Couture is now closed; not sure why.


      This article gives an idea of the cost of the some of the suits and shirts there. From what I could see, a lot of it is bespoke clothing. In the article, it’s mentioned that some of the clothes that Manafort bought there were on the “cheap side” of their clothing line.

      The mind boggles.

      1. Samuel Conner

        This might be a case in which the demand curve rises with price. It isn’t possible, me thinks, to actually embody that much value in articles of clothing, so what one is purchasing is the prestige value of being able to pay so much. It sounds like nice work for the vendor.

      2. John

        Our overlords think they have special needs. Just shy of $150K per year clothing budget can be a little on the cheap side.
        They forget why the Bourbons took that cart ride to the square in central Paris and the Romanov family was taken to the basement.
        Greed, incompetence, and stupidity.

        1. John k

          They’re not all forgetting. Some have the private jets and NZ estates waiting for the deluge. Plane better be big enough for the pilots families…

      1. polecat

        They’re at least more tasteful than what the chairwoo blue mao was wearing, back in the halcyon daze pre election, no ?

  5. a different chris

    Can we comment on the stupidity of attacking Kavanaugh, a guy so loathsome in so many ways that a non-violent person like me has “impure thoughts” about running him over with my car, for how he behaved sexually in High School???!!!??

    It’s not that the Dems focus completely on issues that do not address economics or state violence, it’s now apparent that they have no clue that any other issues actually exist. Everything else is cool, man.

    The guy has decades of behavior as an *adult* that really is stomach turning, but they’re going to let that go. I never thought I’d say this, but poor Corey Booker.

    1. Summer

      Supreme Court nominations should be really whack-a-doodle in the future. Those judges will have had Facebook, Instagram, all of it to pick over.
      And people post without context all the time…

  6. jake

    Sean Patrick Maloney appears to have been a spoiler candidate, to prevent a Teachout win, with a lot of help from banking and real estate interests, who gave lavishly to his campaign — spent on attacks ads not against the front-runner James, but Teachout.

    James not only doesn’t want to be the “sheriff of Wall Street”, she’s closely allied with Ratface Andy (his choice candidate, after all), and will never rock the boat.

    No telling how effective Teachout might have been, with no experience of a prosecutors’ office, but the answer is already known for James.

  7. Big River Bandido

    Late last night, at the bottom of yesterday’s Water Cooler, I posted some background on the NY legislative races, particularly Senate District 13. Suppose I should have waited until today, but I was excited.

    This morning’s news updates confirmed that in the analogous Assembly District 39, the short-term incumbent appointed to the seat after her mentor, Francisco Moya, moved to the City Council, also lost. I’d say voters in Woodside and Jackson Heights are pissed off. They took it out on their elected “Democrats” this year.

  8. allan

    NYS AG race: Sean Maloney was a synthetic candidate.
    I really couldn’t believe the returns last night.
    If you look at this map (based on incomplete returns, but I can’t find another),
    you can see that Maloney, who is a congressman from the Hudson River Valley,
    did best with the Dem votes who were furthest away from him,
    while Teachout won the areas closest to his district.
    That might say something about the leftist Dems who live in the Hudson Valley,
    but it says more about how much media was bought on Maloney’s behalf in areas
    hundreds of miles away, like the metro areas of western and central NY,
    where he had zero name recognition before this race.

    One can foresee a long and prosperous future for Mr. Maloney in the private sector
    for having derailed Teachout’s candidacy.

    1. Carey

      I’m sorry to hear this, which sounds much like the 2016 California Democrat primary, where I live. There is simply *no way* Mrs. Clinton, who couldn’t get 500 people
      together without paying them, won that primary, while Sanders was drawing 30k
      person crowds of great and honest enthusiasm.

      Still can’t get over this manufacturing of “consent”. It can’t and won’t last.

    2. Pat

      Maloney entered the race a week after Teachout. It took him several weeks after that to get the number of signatures necessary to get on the ballot. I encountered someone with a petition for him well into July (they didn’t appreciate my response). And he spent a lot of money on this run. I saw more commercials for him than for James and Teachout combined.

      Almost makes you wish that his Republican opponent for his current day job as an United States Congressman had kept up his lawsuit challenging Maloney’s run which would have had him in two places on the ballot IF he had won. (I do wish I could have been a fly on the wall for the conversation that took place to make that happen.)

      I’m with jake above, we know what we are getting. James is going to be all about Trump and any other pet neoliberal projects but otherwise our FIRE sector filled with bad actors has nothing to worry about.

  9. Hameloose Cannon

    In 2010 then-Pres Viktor Yanukovych entered a law prohibiting NATO-membership for Ukraine. Prior to, and during his presidency, Yanukovych was leader of the Party of Regions, which among other things wanted to grant the Russian language state status. In 2005, the Party of Regions signed a collaboration agreement with Russia’s state political party, Russia United [Yedinaya Rossiya], which is of course when Paul Manafort began grooming Yanukovych.

    Today, Manfort’s plea agreement stipulated a $46 million-dollar criminal and civil forfeiture. [See Wu’s Cash, Rules, Everything, Around, Me. C.R.E.A.M. Get the money. Dollar, dollar bill y’all.] Which between you, and me, pays for the entire Special Counsel investigation, eh?

    1. Harold

      Flashback to 2014:

      It’s tempting to put Ukraine’s failure to join NATO down to Russian subterfuge and European feebleness, but there’s another important factor here — Ukrainian public opinion. Multiple polls conducted around that time showed that Ukrainians viewed NATO with suspicion: One Gallup poll from May 2008 found that 43 percent of Ukrainian adults viewed the alliance as a “threat.” Yushchenko had avoided calls for a referendum on the issue, and when Bush visited in 2008, he was greeted by angry crowds carrying signs that said things such as “Yankee Go Home.” NATO considers public support a key factor for membership. More recent polls have suggested that there is growing support for NATO membership, but to what extent is not entirely clear.


  10. Ranger Rick

    That “multinationals make the US economy great” line really made me laugh. Then think, because they were probably speaking euphemistically and not actually talking about any economy as we’d understand it. Do multinationals actually contribute in any meaningful way to GDP if they’re domiciled in tax-friendly jurisdictions? Signs point to no. (PDF)

  11. Carey

    ” ‘He’s very focused on the question of beating Trump and putting a Democrat in the White House,’ Weaver said. ‘And if he runs it’s because he thinks he’s the one to do it.’”

    What is a Democrat?

      1. Edward E

        I’ll sign on for results-based pay for twuckas the day Congress gets the same deal. (hint for you teachers)

  12. Steve H.

    King James is often presented as an avid witch-burner, but that is perpendicular to the reality of his passion. More important to him than catching witches was catching fakers. To him, witches were bad nasty damned and yes, burn them, but faking it was claiming access to the supernatural realm and was thus blasphemy. In other words, witches operated within the framework set up by God, while the fakes violated it.

    To attribute to Godel aspects of the word Platonism is to attribute the bias of the subject. He didn’t trust words. There is a common mathematical ideal of a circle, not a single perfect circle emanating through the spheres. A intelligent extraterrestrial might, perhaps necessarily, come up with the idea of a circle, but it would be communicated through the mathematics, and not the words. The drawing of the circle may be done by a consistent formula, but there’s a breakdown at the point of connection, when it becomes complete. Does the circle contain the boundary that defines it? Godel’s work implies that to assume a universe is complete and consistent requires a leap of faith. So Godel read his Bible.

    Schismogenesis generates incompleteness. Intersectionality is like implying that a hair with split ends weighs more, that what should be emphasized is all the parts, not the all, the We. Bateson’s double-bind is the practical application of Godel’s method, applied to the human, social, emotional realm. Yes, he was a clever fellow, wasn’t he.

    A last point on identity. Identity is the long diagonal of a matrix, the relationship of an element to itself, an I. It is a tautology that you cannot have an intersection of identities. Unions work better for universal benefits.

    1. Synoia

      Which King James? The UK there had 2.
      James I was not trusted by Parliament.

      Both were figureheads, Parliament has arrogated power to itself at that time.

      1. Steve H.

        Ah, Six-and-One, the earlier of the two.

        I think, at the time, it was still the Parliament of England, to whom a Scottish king was just wrong. Which is why he sought to become King of Britain, and not just King of England and Ireland and Scotland.

        The Gunpowder Plot made clear, intersectionality did not work.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          According Wikipedia, he was the one who developed the theory of the divine right of kings. From Wikipedia:

          With the rise of nation-states and the Protestant Reformation, the theory of divine right justified the king’s absolute authority in both political and spiritual matters. The theory was developed by James VI of Scotland (1567–1625), and came to the fore in England under his reign as James I of England (1603–1625). Louis XIV of France (1643–1715) strongly promoted the theory as well.

  13. Eduardo

    Thanks for the daily howler link. Quite amusing.

    Why is 317 a prime? Now that you’ve asked, we can explain it amazingly simply. The number 317 is a prime because it can’t be divided evenly by the number 2, or by any other “natural number,” as you will quickly be able to see if you just give it a try.

    The number 317 can’t be divided evenly by the number 2, or by any other “natural number,” … because it is prime.

    317 is a prime, not because we think so, or because our minds are shaped in one way rather than another, but because it is so, because mathematical reality is built that way.

    Of course. Why is 317 a prime? Because it is!

    An easier starting point might be what is “2”? It is a symbol that represents two-ness.

  14. Michael Meo

    Regarding Lambert’s citation of Bob Somerby’s blog The Howler, which has conducted an assault for a month on two biographies of Kurt Gödel:

    As a high-school teacher, I was delighted to read Bob Somerby’s continually informative statistics-based takedowns, twenty years ago, of the accepted anti-intellectual narrative of the U.S. school system. I lost touch with his column recently, and was disappointed with what I saw in the recent examples from this month. In fact, the commenters to Somerby’s columns have clearly, repeatedly, and definitively demonstrated how much his objections to the philosophy of Platonism in mathematics boils down to ranting that he doesn’t understand it, despite its coherent, apt, and accurate characterization in the books he criticizes.

    1. stefan

      I’m inclined to agree here with Michael Meo. I spent the last 50 minutes skimming the Howler on Gödel, but it’s a waste of time. If you are interested in Kurt Gödel, then Goldstein’s book–which the Howler rants against for reasons somewhat obscure–is actually a worthwhile place to start.

      Is mathematics an objective realm of eternal ideas even in the absence of the human mind? Or is mathematics purely an invention of the human mind, a creature of our thoughts? It’s a fascinating conundrum that I don’t have the answer to, but many accomplished people who have spent their lifetimes thinking about math tend to think that math has an objective metaphysical existence and separate reality, that the truths of math are discovered, not concocted.

  15. clarky90

    I had a realization………..more widdershins!

    “The Liberals” have metamorphosed into “The Totalitarians”.

    willing to respect or accept behaviour or opinions different from one’s own; open to new ideas.
    “liberal views towards divorce”
    (of education) concerned with broadening a person’s general knowledge and experience, rather than with technical or professional training.
    “the provision of liberal adult education”
    synonyms: wide-ranging, broad-based, general, humanistic
    “the provision of liberal adult education”

    This is what “liberal” meant when I was growing up in the 50s/60s/70s. Now, no.

    I found many examples of words that have diametrically changed meaning (180* flip) over time;


    “The word awful originally meant something rather like “awesome.” Its Old English form, egefull, meant “causing dread”; as ege became awe and came to mean not just “dread” but “profound respect,” awful came to mean “commanding profound respect or fear.” In the 1600s, it could mean “sublimely majestic” and was uttered as high praise to such things as a great cathedral. But a slang usage of awful to mean “monstrous, frightful, very ugly” caught on in the 1800s, and now it’s the only way you can use the word. A shadow of the original sense can be seen in our use of awfully to mean “very.””


    1. clarky90

      “Authoritarian” (old speak, “Liberal”) also comes to my mind. You MUST vote this way, must say special words (like “conversation” or “folks” or “abhorrent”). NEVER use banned or questionable words….

      Virtue Signal, unceasingly.

      It takes me back to my upside-down, inside-out youth. When the shoe was on the other foot.

    2. Darthbobber

      The 1st 2 things that come to my mind when I think of the origins are the Manchester school of free trade liberalism whose early theoretician was Ricardo, and Gladstone’s liberal party.

      Interestingly, the main American journals of what was called liberalism in the gilded age were the Nation, the New Republic, the Atlantic, Harper’s and Scribner’s.

      And their pages were filled with Social Darwinism, laments about the dangers of an unrestricted franchise, and culture wars directed against the drinking, preferred entertainment, child rearing practices etc of the Irish and the damned populist hillbillies.

      Also the evils of government regulation (except of labor unions and lower class entertainments.) And the virtues of hard money, the gold standard and a balanced budget.

  16. Wukchumni

    I think I tore my meniscus a few weeks ago, and you have to get x-rays first, even though it won’t tell you anything about soft tissue injuries, and that was a week ago, and the x-rays came back negative, and i’ve been calling to get an MRI scheduled, and found out today that my insurance provider turned it down yesterday, and I raised holy hell with them, and they relented, but can only schedule me to have it done on October 1, earlier if I can get in on a cancellation.


    1. bob

      I think the manhattanites put the screws to him the night before the election in order to ensure NYC GOTV. I hope what they got was worth it.

  17. Wukchumni

    Spectacular ice age wolf pup and caribou dug up in Canada

    The Klondike region of Canada is famous for its gold, but now other remarkable ancient treasures have been unearthed from the melting permafrost.

    Two mummified ice age mammals – a wolf pup and a caribou calf – were discovered by gold miners in the area in 2016 and unveiled on Thursday at a ceremony in Dawson in Yukon territory.

    It is extremely rare for fur, skin and muscle tissues to be preserved in the fossil record, but all three are present on these specimens, which have been radiocarbon-dated to more than 50,000 years old.

    The wolf pup is preserved in its entirety, including exceptional details of the head, tail, paws, skin and hair. The caribou calf is partially preserved, with head, torso and two front limbs intact.


  18. bob

    The IDC in NY being slaughtered is the big win from yesterday. It also proves the Cuomo can do for himself, but can’t be expected to help anyone else who signs on with him and his mercenary army.

    One way loyalty. Up and to the right.

    1. Big River Bandido

      One way loyalty. Up and to the right.

      Just like the Democrats statewide and nationwide. Hillary’s Arrow. I’m gonna use your line in appropriate discussions, thank you.

      In two re-election bids, Cuomo has generated significant antipathy among Democrats in his own state. In both 2014 and yesterday, he failed to get even 7 out of 10 Democrats. For a 2-term incumbent with massive patronage powers, that’s a pathetic showing.

      Cuomo’s chances in 2020 are zero.

  19. Plenue

    This week’s final batch of 2018 primaries [Raimondo, Cuomo, Hochul, Carper, among others] ought to temper, at least somewhat, the over-torqued conventional wisdom that a liberal insurgency is taking over the Democratic Party

    Running with his conflation of left and liberal here, he’s conceding the Dems aren’t already the party of liberals. So…um…what the hell is the Democratic Party for, then? Why does the US need two conservative parties?

  20. Darthbobber

    PhillyDSA kerfuffle: Sadly, Lambert, this is not a national-local pissing contest but a local/local one. (Though there are overlaps with a similar factional struggle happening on he National Political Council, some of whose participants are also sticking their noses into the local “controversy.”

    Not totally binary, but the LILAC people are being more disingenuous in my book, and many of the responses to the steering commitee’s inquiries have not been exactly responsive. One thing you never hear from this committee’s partisans is any acknowledgement that the members of the steering committee actually WERE elected by the General Membership to play the role they do, and have to date been supported by the General Membership meetings.

    Samuel Schwartz (a lilac co-creator now with a soapbox on the National Political Council), revealed a portion of the hidden agenda (while accusing others of having one) when he drags the Philadelphia situation explicitly into the attack on Naschek’s Jacobin piece that he publishes on DSA Weekly.

    Here’s a gem:
    “This is disconcerting because Philly DSA is in the process of rewriting its bylaws. Members Naschek caucuses with–those who advance the Momentum strategy–wrote the resolution which jump started this revision process, and that tendency is also massively overrepresented on the Bylaws Committee created by that resolution. Unfortunately, this composition is not reflective of the larger makeup of the local. Borrowing a trick the Founding Fathers used when creating the Senate, the resolution that created the Bylaws Committee dictates that each committee, regardless of size, will have one member on the Bylaws Committee.”

    You would think that conspirators did this themselves, but the sinister resolution was approved by the General Membership, who are presumably at least as qualified as Samuel Schwartz to opine as to whether they are sufficiently reflected in its makeup. You might also think that the committee would somehow be able to operate by fiat in installing whatever revised bylaws it comes up with. But again, the General Membership will need to approve any changes. Its hardly a coup. Nor are those opposed at all unable to express their views adequately. They just haven’t been winning.

    1. nick

      When were the steering committee elected in Philly and what did the electorate look like then relative to a) the electorate now or b) the paper membership (then OR now)? Rapid growth of DSA has undermined the authority of leadership on many levels, not just in Philly, and when I look around it’s not always the case that the people making decisions are best (or well-) equipped to do so — rather the face of leadership often reflects a case of first/early mover advantage and who controls existing (crappy) communication channels.

      I’ve been very involved in DSA organizing over the past 2 years but still cannot grasp how huge chapters even function. It boggles my mind that any chapter has immigration, racial, and education issues handled within a catch-all “local” committee. (unless those efforts are parallel to other actions outside the LILAC committee?). I have no idea of personal dynamics there but anyone pushing M4A at the EXPENSE of other feasible work can FRO.

      1. Darthbobber

        Steering committee elections 2017 post national convention.(also post the biggest bump in membership.) Two key Philly members (Schwartz and Mdiri) were elected to the npc in 17 so things also get complicated by local factions having national connections.

        I think the creation of lilac as a catch-all may have had the unintended consequences of keeping people from seeing the need for perhaps more specific committees.

        So far the steering committee has been backed by the general membership when it matters, but the prevalence of hidden agendas among both the main factions grows wearisome.

        Bylaws clearly do need revision, eg. There are presently NO amendments from the floor allowed when considering resolutions, and the general membership meeting takes place only 5 times a year, which is actually an increase from the past, but hardly adequate from my perspective.

        There develops a tendency among some to simply assume bad faith from those they disagree with. Lilac has been allowed to pursue a wide range of things with minimal oversight, but the structure, designed for the much sleepier thing dsa was not that long ago helps create a perception that Philly dsa as a whole doesn’t know what Philly dsa is doing.

        And having to overhaul the ship in such an environment will be-er-interesting.

        1. Durak Knisely

          A co-author of the linked report and former coordinator of LILAC here. Appreciating this debate (and tickled it made it to Water Cooler!! I promise I didn’t send it in). Feel free to ask me questions about it. Nick mostly has the correct sense of the situation.

          I’m happy to take critiques, several of which are well founded from Darthbobber and Lambert.

          But some of what’s being said in these comments is just false. Schwartz isn’t on the NPC. Not sure why Darthbobber is saying we operate without oversight when we had to write a 14 page report on our violations of the rules and SC frequently comes to our meetings to oversee us (a Co-chair of the Local came to our meeting and said he couldn’t have trainings on race or do reading groups). Read the report!

          Also, we’re winning: LILAC was a key player in the coalition that pressured Kenney to get rid of PARS information sharing. Also, given the bad reputation Philly DSA has in the city’s left movements, I consider our coalition work and showing up to be a victory, as well as creating a committee culture that isn’t soul-sappingly obsessed with Robert’s Rules.

          While it’s not false to critique LILAC this way, have some sympathy. We’ve only existed for 7 months and without much access to the spare resources our chapter has and with overt obstruction. Come to a meeting sometime, you’ll see what we’re about.

          1. Darthbobber

            Because Joseph and Samuel Schwartz are from Philly and Joseph is on the npc but Samuel wrote the article in question. Didn’t look at the byline closely enough.

            Some of the oversight seems after the fact, though? (And you’re right, a significant chunk is nitpicking. Not all, though.) I confess I sometimes act on the axiom that forgiveness is easier to obtain than permission

            One complaint I didn’t see addressed was the one about telling them an event had been cancelled when it apparently wasn’t. How did that happen? If trust and the assumption of good faith are already in short supply that’s all it takes to push some people over the edge.

            Do I understand correctly that the reading group that did have the ts properly crossed is currently occupied with Cohen’s defense of Histomat and reconstruction of Marxism as analytic philosophy? Or was that a bad dream?

            1. Durak Kniseley

              For sure, I appreciate that. Different Schwartzes.

              If you look at the Poor Peoples’s Campaign and Anti-ICE sections you’ll see oversight happening before and during campaign work, as well as after the fact.

              I think this matter of the event refers to the Afro-Socialists and Socialists of Color training. It was postponed and not cancelled, wishful thinking on their part maybe. But I do agree that in conflicts like this where trust has eroded to such an extent, and open channels are at a minimum, such miscommunications are detrimental.

              You heard right. They’re reading Cohen. It’s…funny to me. When I first saw it I thought “good for Cohen!” It’s not entirely unhelpful stuff but there are probably better things for socialist activists to read when doing work in Philly. But so it goes—it’s an interesting thing and I don’t mind if they read it. I only mind when they say we can’t read books we want, which is what they’ve done when we want to read about race/class.

        2. nick

          Thanks Darth and DK for the interesting rundown here. There’s obviously a ton of micro/personal beef, but that structural problem is what really sounds daunting. Hope you’re able to deal with the bylaws and have a leadership election soon. That seems like a good way to clear things up, one way or another.

  21. Big River Bandido

    The common phrase I’ve heard is “three weeks in politics is a lifetime”.

    Robert Dallek also tells a wonderful anecdote about Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon that incorporates the “three weeks” timetable. But it’s Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, so it’s not printable in a family blog.

  22. Wukchumni

    They’ve been used to detect drugs, bombs and bugs.

    Now a team of specially trained dogs will put their wet noses to work in California, sniffing out a fatal citrus disease with the potential to cripple the state’s $3.4 billion citrus industry.

    The crew of 19 canines and their trainers have spent months getting ready for what many hope is an important step toward preventing the disease, known as huanglongbing, or HLB, from invading the state’s commercial citrus groves.

    Farmers, scientists and industry leaders don’t want what happened in Florida to happen here.

    The tree-killing disease has ravaged Florida’s once mighty citrus industry, costing growers more than $2.9 billion and forcing the destruction of hundreds of thousands of trees. Spread by a tiny insect called the Asian citrus psyllid, scientists have yet to discover a cure for the disease.

    In California, HLB is present in more than 800 backyard citrus trees in Southern California. But, luckily for growers, it has failed to hitchhike its way north to the San Joaquin Valley, the heart of the state’s citrus industry. And that’s exactly how citrus industry officials want it.


  23. David

    Ratface Andy

    Considering Gov. Cuomo’s long tenure in public office, one would think he could be ridiculed for his actions and not his genetics.

      1. David

        “Look at that face!…Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?” – “Vulgarian” Trump referring to Carly Fiorina

  24. Wukchumni

    “A state that denies its citizens their basic rights becomes a danger to its neighbors as well: internal arbitrary rule will be reflected in arbitrary external relations. The suppression of public opinion, the abolition of public competition for power and its public exercise opens the way for the state power to arm itself in any way it sees fit…. A state that does not hesitate to lie to its own people will not hesitate to lie to other states.”

    Václav Havel

  25. roxy

    What on earth is wrong with being the “sheriff of Wall Street”?
    They catch you keeping your socks on while socializing.

  26. Conrad

    That New York ballot is so laughably awful it’s just got to be deliberate right? The two totally unused blank rows are sitting right begging to be used but nope, let’s just add another column for the A-G race

  27. ewmayer

    Re. “THE PLATONIST FILE: What makes 17 a prime? [Daily Howler]” — 17 is not merely prime, it is also one of just five known Fermat primes, the smallest five integers F_n = 2^2^n+1, which Fermat famously and incorrectly conjectured are all prime. (Based upon much numerical work and statistics re. distributions of factors of the F_n, it is in fact widely believed that F_0 – F_4 are the *only* primes in the sequence.)

    Lastly, dear Daily Howler, how expensive would it have been for the author of this piece to buy a frickin’ umlaut? Over and over, ‘Godel’, when the correct – not just in terms of spelling but also pronunciation – ‘Gödel’ is right there in a bloody quote used in the piece. Seriously…

    1. integer

      According to the Riemann hypothesis the non-trivial zeros of ζ(s) have real part one-half:

      I want to conclude by giving you the idea that the Riemann hypothesis does not just make ψ(x) as close to x as possible, but also is very beautiful. If it is true, it means that primes are generated by a bunch of different frequencies of waves that grow at the same rate. If some waves grow faster than others, we get havoc.

      1. ewmayer

        Interestingly enough, that was Riemann’s only paper on the subject of number theory (his mentor Gauss did much crucial work in the field) – to use a modern metric, that one had quite the citation impact factor.

  28. yanger


    If you see the world as a series of true and false/multiple choice. If you see the world as a series of correct answers, then you can’t hold a conversation with other people. Wes Cesil

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